The remote Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region boasts not only large amounts of oil, coal and gas that keep powering China's economic development. It also offers the nation's people, and even people around the world, high-quality agricultural products, including juicy, sweet Turpan grapes, Hami melons, and ripe, red tomatoes.
Realizing the fact that a resource dependent economy is ultimately not sustainable, officials in Xinjiang took advantage of Xinjiang's natural conditions and cultivated the tomato industry, also known as the Red Industry.
Xinjing’s weather is perfect for growing tomatoes, with adequate sunlight and a temperature range that produces large and delicious tomatoes.
Began in 1978, Xinjiang's tomato industry has a farmland of 533 sq km, with an output of tomato products exceeds 650,000 tons a year, which accounts for 90 percent of the country's total output. The related enterprises have the capacity to process 3.8 million tons of tomatoes annually.
Xinjiang's tomato exports reached 449,000 tons in 2017, worth $290 million, which accounted for 70 percent of China's tomato exports and 25 percent of the world's total trading volume.
Tomato paste is largely consumed by people in central Asian countries, some of which neighbor Xinjiang and thus make the region a big export market for the red sauce. According to Urumqi Customs, from January to June 2018, Xinjiang exported over 22,400 tons of tomato paste, worth $156 million, accounting for 58.7 percent of the country's tomato paste export.
Xinjiang's tomato products are also sold in over 130 countries and regions, mainly to EU countries, Russia and Japan.
In summer, many areas of Xinjiang become a sea of red as farmers pick tomatoes in the hot sun. In front of tomato processing enterprises, are bumper-to-bumper trucks packed with the fruit.
Lu Wenyuan, an official from the COFCO Tunhe Manas Tomato Products Branch Company, a subsidiary of COFCO Xinjiang Tunhe Co Ltd, a leading tomato grower and tomato processing enterprise, said by signing contracts with large tomato processing enterprises, farmers are making larger and more stable incomes than before.
In the past 30 years, Xinjiang's Red Industry has experienced success as well as difficult periods.
Although Xinjiang can produce the best tomatoes in the world, the lack of experience and proper management made many Chinese tomato businesses leave the international market. Propelled by the national policy of reform and opening-up, Xinjiang enterprises strive to go overseas and learn other countries' production standards and product requirements in order to produce what the world needs.
Various local companies has set up a series of production standards and quality control systems and have created their own raw material supply, including COFCO Xinjiang Tunhe Co Ltd, Xinjiang Tianye Co Ltd and Xinjiang ChalkisTomato Co Ltd. The three have become the leading forces in Xinjiang's tomato industry.